Evaluating Park Safety: The Safety Audit Process
From Planning, Designing and Maintaining Safer Parks, produced by Toronto Parks & Recreation. This guide is not intended to be a definitive statement on creating safer parks and open spaces, nor is it intended to serve as a template for the design, operation, and use of parks. See the Introduction for more information.
The safety audit method was first developed in Canada by METRAC (the Metro Action Committee on Public Violence Against Women and Children), and has been successfully used across North America, Australia and Great Britain, to evaluate perceived risk in the urban environment.
The safety audit process is based on participation and feedback from users of a given space. It allows for an evaluation of the physical environment in terms of fear of crime and perceptions of safety. The evaluation is based on users’ experience of the environment and provides the opportunity for the experience of those who feel most vulnerable to be heard and interpreted in future planning. Audit participants use a checklist to identify and record factors that affect their feelings regarding safety and comfort.
When users become involved in identifying their safety concerns, they become an integral part of the solution. The findings from community based safety audits are an important starting point for creating and implementing strategies for enhancing personal safety.
Environmental designers and planners cannot always fully comprehend the fear and anxieties felt by the users of the spaces they create. Recent experiences in Toronto and other cities suggest that the use of safety audits can be instrumental in establishing a better understanding between designers and park users and in identifying issues of layout, site features, maintenance, programming and use which the community feel to be unsafe. Audits also provide an inventory of design, operational and programming solutions to make parks safer.